Automotive Blog

Looking at the Hyundai/Kia juggernaut

The Hyundai and Kia makes compete fiercely with each other in the U.S., and partially for this reason, their performances are rarely combined into one corporate result. But the two makes are part of the same company, (the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group) and when their U.S. results are combined, the numbers are astounding. New registrations for both brands are up to 27.5% through the first nine months of 2011, almost three times the industry increase of 10.5%.

The combined Hyundai/Kia U.S. volume is on track to surpass, for the first time, one million new units for the year. Perhaps most impressively, the two makes' nine-month combined share of the U.S. market stands at 9.1%, up more than a point from a year ago. They are almost a point ahead of Nissan and virtually even with American Honda. In fact, just 538 units separate Hyundai/Kia from American Honda through the first nine months of 2011. (Admittedly, American Honda has been impacted far more than Hyundai/Kia by the March earthquake/tsunamis and the Thailand flooding.)

Many reasons are put forth for the success of the two Korean makes. Certainly their innovative, leading-edge marketing programs that include residuals guarantees have played a major role. Their progressive, "flowing" styling has also contributed. And the makes continue to price their vehicles aggressively, creating a compelling value story. But I would suggest that the one overriding driver of Hyundai/Kia's success has been the frequency with which the two makes have either launched all-new products or redesigned existing vehicles. 

The chart shows, by model, the company's product update program during the three-year window from 2011 through 2013 (model years). There are few vehicles that have not either recently been redesigned or soon will be. In fact, models accounting for 86.4% and 73.2% of Hyundai and Kia volumes, respectively, are being launched or substantially changed during this window. The only significant products that have not seen activity during this time period are the Genesis, Tucson, Sedona and Soul, and all of these except the Sedona were either launched or redesigned just prior to this window. 

Product Activity for Hyundai and Kia Makes

This aggressive product program raises the bar for the rest of the industry. Products not updated at the pace with which Hyundai and Kia are doing so will both appear outdated and actually be obsolete in terms of features and benefits. The product blitzes of Hyundai and Kia present a major challenge for all new vehicle OEMs, particularly those with several makes and a relatively large number of models.  

Posted by Tom Libby, PolkInsight Advisor, Polk (11.18.2011)

About The Author

Manager, Loyalty Solutions and Industry Analysis

Tom currently uses his passion for the auto industry to serve as a Solutions Consultant for IHS Automotive's Loyalty Practice. His past roles here include Sr. Forecasting Analyst and PolkInsight Advisor (he worked for two years in Polk’s Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey office). Tom's other interests include reading, gardening, sailing and running. Aside from Detroit and New York, Tom has also lived in Los Angeles, Denver, and Boston, where he drove a taxi for two years. Tom has also traveled extensively in the United States and overseas, including an overland trip across Asia after graduating from college. Tom is inspired by people who practice what they preach and enjoys socializing with friends that he's met throughout his career and from school.

Tom is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA). During the 2009 calendar year, Tom was President of that organization. He is an active member of the Automotive Press Association, and in the past has written a blog for the online version of the Detroit Free Press. Tom has a bachelor's degree in history from Amherst College, an MBA with a marketing concentration from Columbia University and once served as an Adjunct Professor of Market Research at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.